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An inside look at Sunday’s Chiefs-Bengals AFC Championship game in Kansas City, Mo.:
Bengals QB Joe Burrow vs. the Chiefs’ pass rush
The Titans sacked Burrow nine times in the divisional playoff game last week, something the Bengals know they have to fix against the Chiefs. The Bengals have had a tough time all season protecting Burrow, and the Chiefs, who sacked Burrow four times on Jan.2 , will be looking to tee off on the young QB.
“There’s a lot of things that play into it, starting with me putting him in the best position, putting our guys in the best position to block the other team and be prepared for pressures and all that kind of stuff,” Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said. “We spend a lot of time and effort talking through that. Some games, it’s great. Some games, we’re going to need to improve.”
Chris Jones led the Chiefs with nine sacks this season. Kansas City also has Frank Clark to get to Burrow.
In just his second season in the NFL, Burrow has already placed himself among the best quarterbacks in the league. He threw for 4,611 yards and 34 touchdowns this season.
“He’s rare,” Taylor said this week. “It’s impossible to put into words why he is what he is.”
The Bengals are on the rise, but the Chiefs are already at the top of their game. Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City will not need any last-minute magic in this one. They will control the game from start to finish.
Chiefs 35, Bengals 20
K.C. dynamic duo: It was fitting during last week’s last-second comeback that Patrick Mahomes threw first to Tyreek Hill, then to Travis Kelce, to move the Chiefs into field-goal range. Those two have been consistent superstars for the Chiefs, and will be a key if they are to beat the Bengals and return to the Super Bowl.
Kelce caught 92 passes for 1,125 yards and nine touchdowns this season. Hill broke Kelce’s team record with 111 catches for 1,239 yards and nine touchdowns.
“That one is supposed to be held by a wide receiver. The tight end isn’t always the focal point in the offense,” Kelce said. “Tyreek has done an incredible job of taking his game to the next level. Sure enough, you see him breaking records … and he’s just going to keep taking off. It’s so fun to play with him.”
Keeping Chase: The last time these two teams met, Bengals wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase embarrassed the Chiefs. The rookie from LSU caught 11 passes for 266 yards and three touchdowns in the 34-31 Bengals win. Kansas City was not alone among teams that Chase made look silly this season. He had 81 catches for 1,455 yards and 13 touchdowns.
It is going to be up to Chiefs cornerbacks Charvarius Ward and L’Jarius Sneed to slow down Chase. Bills quarterback Josh Allen carved the Kansas City defense up last week. Can Burrow and Chase get them again?
Big Red: Chiefs head coach Andy Reid already has a résumé that will put him in consideration for the Hall of Fame. Another Super Bowl title would make him a lock. Reid can match Tom Landry for the second-most playoff wins in NFL history with a victory over the Bengals. It would be Reid’s 20th playoff win. Only Bill Belichick has more with 31.
A win would also give Reid his fourth Super Bowl appearance, and third straight with the Chiefs, after one with the Eagles in 2004.
Reid is fifth all-time in coaching wins with 233. He trails just Don Shula (328), George Halas (318), Belichick (290) and Landry (250).
Kick-Pherson: The Bengals have plenty of young stars, but it was their kicker who stole the show last week against the Titans. Evan McPherson, a rookie from Florida, booted a 52-yard field goal as time expired to win the game for Cincinnati, giving the franchise its first road playoff win.
McPherson is 8-for-8 in these playoffs.
“Having been around him since the first day he showed up for training camp,” Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said, “and how consistent he’s been, just his demeanor and how he carries himself, there’s no false confidence there. The guy’s the real deal. He believes he’s going to make every kick that leaves this foot, and he came through for us.”